It’s almost the end of 2018 and as many do, I’m reflecting on what the year has brought.
Probably the biggest change for me has been giving up drinking. I’ve been dancing around the edges of giving up my beloved wine and the occasional margarita and I managed to stop on April 1. A lot of my ability to do so can be credited to the sober women’s community that I’ve been following. In particular, I started to read a few blogs – Hip Sobriety – and Laura Mckowen and listen to their podcast, HOME. After one night of drinking AGAIN I listened to the relapse episode and it really resonated. It took me awhile to muster up the courage to stop but I finally did. Other than a day of drinking in late August, I haven’t had any alcohol since then. I owe them and the other women in the sober community a great debt.
I’m glad I don’t drink anymore. I watch friends joke about it and a good friend’s husband died from it, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I really want a glass of wine. As I’ve learned, society and popular culture is very influential and I feel a tug of regret when I’m watching a movie or show where the characters are drinking. Usually it’s a glass of wine, at home, in a beautiful setting, perfect lighting, beautiful glass. Some days I want to give in to the irritations or hardships that make up real life and plop on the couch with a glass of Chardonnay. So far, I have been able to redirect myself with a non-alcoholic option as I know all too well what drinking does to me. I am well versed in the sweaty, restless sleep and the dehydration and upset stomach of the next day. The headaches and numbness.The guilt and regret. The promises that it will be the last time. I don’t want to waste any more days. Too many people I know have health issues and would love to have all the days I have wasted feeling like crap after an evening of drinking.
I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs and biographies about drinking and recovery, all by women. This was really important to me in the early days of not drinking. I think I was searching for common ground, acknowledgement, and understanding and I found it. I read Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, Blackout: Remembering the things I drank to forget by Sarah Hepola, The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, My Fair Junkie by Amy Dresner, I’m just happy to be here by Janelle Hatchett and Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter. I also read Catra Corbett’s book (Reborn on the Run) which includes both ultrarunning and addiction issues.
I got something from all of these books, though some I liked more than others. All were different, varied in format and voice, and severity of impact that drinking had on their lives. A few of these were not relatable to me. My drinking didn’t escalate in the same way or lead to unemployment, jail or even to a formal stint in detox or recovery. This is not to say that I’m any better or had less of a problem; just that my experience was different. I found more information in other resources, blogs, webpages, and podcasts. Home podcast was key for me, and I also listened to episodes of Unruffled, Annie Grace, and more recently, the Edit Podcast where the focus is on grey area drinking which is where I think I fall on the spectrum. Less focused on drinking but still relevant is Rich Roll’s podcast.
Another major thing this year was that my therapist retired in March. I have been at a stable place for a while, and was seeing her twice a month, but it has been hard. Because my depression was so severe and the recovery so long, I felt the need to be proactive and find someone else to have in place in case of relapse. Despite feeling pretty stable, I attended an event in honor of my late father in late May and felt rather unmoored emotionally by the experience. This prompted me to find someone new but ultimately, I decided it wasn’t a good fit. I struggled with having to explain things again and didn’t feel like we quite clicked.
I’m still volunteering at the library but resigned from a leadership position that I had taken. I’m slowly trying to recognize unhealthy situations and that I don’t have to fix everything. I have taken two classes to explore creativity and surprisingly, didn’t like the one that had to do with writing! I’ve enjoyed the drawing class and will be back to it in January.
This year has once again brought grief and loss into my life. A friend of mine was diagnosed with colon cancer in March and she died in August. We used to celebrate birthdays with almond croissants and Christmas with peppermint mochas. After a few visits to her cabin in the foothills, she died shortly after a camping trip with her family. I miss her quite a bit. Another friend’s husband died rather suddenly from the effects of alcoholism and I’m doing my best to support her while trying to recognize my need to establish boundaries for my own protection.
I’m pleased that I’ve travelled some this year and done some unique things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t retired. We went to San Francisco for a Klimt Exhibit. I went to see Katy Perry and Pink in concert with my sister, and the Eagles and Zac Brown Band with my husband. (All of the concerts were enjoyed without alcohol!). We went to Kansas on my mom’s birthday in July (I know..HOT) and Tahoe a week later for my husband’s family reunion. We escaped the Sacramento heat and smoke in August for my birthday at the coast, and then did our first cruise to Alaska.
Exercise is still my love, mainly walking and hiking. I’ve added in cycling and did two formal events this year, the Chico Wildflower (30 miles) and the Foxy’s Fall Century (31 miles). I graduated to clip in pedals and promptly fell twice adding a few new scars to my legs. I still enjoy swimming and yoga twice a week has become my non-negotiable.
Like most of us, I continue to be searching, learning, and questioning. I’ve wondered often how well I know myself, after so many years being hard-wired to please others and do the “right thing.” It’s a bit horrifying to find myself with this question so late in life. There are still things I’d like to do and try, like spending a few days by myself, perhaps at a silent retreat, and go to Ireland. I’d like to kayak again. I’d like to meet more people who appreciate deeper conversation about books and ideas and kindness. And cats….because the girls have also been a big part of my world. Crazy cat lady, party of one.
Here’s to 2019. May yours be happy and healthy.